Highlands & Islands

Apology over baby deaths at Caithness General Hospital

Caithness General Image copyright Google
Image caption An inquiry found that at least two of the five deaths at Caithness General were "potentially avoidable"

NHS Highland has apologised for "past failings" after an inquiry following the deaths of five babies at one hospital found at least two of the deaths were "potentially avoidable".

The deaths at Caithness General Hospital were examined in a review of the safety of neonatal services.

An external independent inquiry looked at two stillbirths and three neonatal deaths from 2010 to 2015.

It concluded that at least two of the deaths were "potentially avoidable".

"Sub-optimal care" and "avoidable factors" were recorded in all five of the perinatal deaths analysed.

It comes a week after the Scottish government ordered a review following six so-called "unnecessary" deaths of babies at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, since 2008.

Scottish Labour has called on ministers to announce a national review of staffing and workforce issues across all maternity units.

The comprehensive 116-page report into maternal and neonatal services at Caithness General Hospital will be discussed at a meeting of the NHS Highland board on Tuesday.

Image copyright PA

It recommends that Caithness Maternity Unit should operate as a midwife-led Community Maternity Unit (CMU), on the grounds of safety, while cases with a risk of complications should go to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The review was prompted by the potentially avoidable death of a newborn baby at the hospital in September last year.

NHS Highland's medical director Dr Roderick Harvey, who ordered the review, said: "Families do rightly put their faith in the health service and the fact that infants died possibly as a result of sub-optimal care is unacceptable and I apologise unreservedly for these past failings.

"That is why I commissioned the current review and I would wish to assure you that the families have been uppermost in our minds when conducting the review.

"Having identified real safety concerns in my view we must move swiftly to address these concerns and that is the basis of my recommendations."

'Heartbreaking' reports

The health board confirmed that there had been no legal claims over the deaths.

No members of staff have been disciplined as a result of the five deaths because "any identified deficiencies did not reflect on individual clinicians, but rather the system that they work in".

Last week, Health Secretary Shona Robison instructed Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to carry out a review into certain cases in Ayrshire and Arran "to inform me whether the correct procedures and processes were properly followed" in these instances.

Between 2008 and 31 March this year, there were four Significant Adverse Event Reviews concerning stillbirth deaths at Ayrshire Maternity Unit at Crosshouse Hospital, NHS Ayrshire and Arran said.

The BBC said there have been six so-called "unnecessary" deaths of babies at the hospital since 2008.

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "These reports are heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with every family who has been affected by the death of a child.

"The report in Caithness and review at Crosshouse follow on from figures which revealed 25,000 incidents in maternity wards across Scotland since 2011."

He added: "Labour wants to see the Scottish government launch a national review of staffing and workforce issues across all maternity units."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites